Dividing marital property can be one of the most vexing issues in a Florida divorce. This statement is especially true if the divorcing couple has acquired substantial assets during the marriage. Some couples are able to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement on how to divide their property, but many couples have no idea how to proceed if they cannot reach such an agreement on their own. That’s where the services of a professional appraiser come in.

What does an appraiser do?

The principal role of an appraiser is to determine the fair market value of various assets owned by the couple. If the appraiser’s initial report on value does not lead to a settlement, the appraiser is ordinarily required to testify at trial.

The family residence is ordinarily the largest asset in terms of value expressed in money, but an appraiser may be asked to determine the value of a family business or undeveloped real property. Occasionally, a consulting expert is called upon to determine the value of rare goods, such as antiques or works of art.

Valuing the family home

In valuing real property, the appraiser is required to determine the fair market value of the property. Appraisers use three approaches to determining value: the cost approach, the replacement approach and the market approach. The cost approach uses the original cost of the building and the land, but given the significant appreciation that occurs in real estate markets, this approach is rarely used to determine value. The replacement method attempts to calculate the cost of rebuilding the house, but again, changes in market conditions makes this approach unreliable.

The most common approach used by professional appraisers across the United States is the market approach or comparison approach. The appraiser selects a number of comparative buildings that have recently changed hands and uses these sales to set a value for the subject property.

Conclusion. Florida courts rely on the standards and definitions published by the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) to evaluate an appraiser’s report and, if needed, trial testimony. Most lawyers who are experienced in valuation of real estate are able to recommend competent appraisers and prepare their testimony for trial.